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Dianne Mutersbaugh wrote:

Hi, guys —

In the Creed, we say:

He descended into Hell.

I don't understand this and it has been bothering me to the point that I usually take that line out when saying the Creed.

  • Could give me clarification on what this means?

It just can't mean what it says.

Thank you,


  { Can you clarify what He descended into Hell means in the Creed? }

and in a similar question:

Anthony Jones wrote:

Hi, guys —

How did Jesus descend into Hell and stay there for three days, if he said to the good thief on the Cross:

Today you will be with Me in Paradise?

Also, some people believe that when we die, we sleep in Christ. I've always taken this to mean those believers who have died — those who sleep in Christ — but some people take it to literally mean that believers who die, sleep in Christ until the Second Coming.

  • What do Catholics believe about this?

Finally, I've been reading The Gospel of the Nazarenes. It's also been published under the title: The Gospel of the Holy Twelve.

  • Has anyone on this site read it (and the history that's included in the beginning)?
  • If so, what did you think of it?



  { How did Jesus descend into Hell if He said this to the thief and what does sleep in Christ mean? }

John replied:


Thank you for your timely question.

If you attend Mass this Sunday you'll get the answer in the second reading.

1 Peter 3:18-20 states:

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water.

1 Peter 3:18-20 (NABRE)

Prior to the Cross, no one could enter Heaven. All souls went to Sheol or Hades.

Those who had rejected God and the grace given to them, were damned.  Those who had accepted God and whatever grace they had been given, were in a state of purification or a sort of holding place. (Note: I wouldn't get too caught up in defining it as a location as more of a condition. This is somewhat of a metaphorical language that explains a Mystery.)

When Christ died, he went to Sheol or Hades and revealed Himself to those who had responded to His grace and took them to Heaven. Again, this could be imagery; don't get caught up in the geography of Heaven and Hell.

The Book of Hebrews, Chapter 11 talks about all the Old Testament believers that died awaiting the promise. Jesus went to them and delivered the promise of Redemption.

We sometimes get confused because both Sheol and Hades are translated as Hell, but it's really not the final damned destination. The Book of Revelation tells us that Hell (Hades) itself will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Again we have a metaphor, but it's important to note that Hades can also refer to a purgative state (Purgatory) and not to the Hell of the damned. Church teaching is consistent with Revelation in that it teaches that at the End of Time, when Jesus returns, there will be no more Purgatory.

This line in the Creed is often translated, He descended to the dead. That's a little less confusing.

Finally, it's never OK to purposely omit a line from the Creed.

If you have a question, you need to ask it and get it resolved. Men and women died to defend the ancient Creeds. The Creeds of the Church are part of the infallible Church Teaching.

No one has the authority to mess with them.



Mary Ann replied:


The Hades of the Creed in Latin, translated Hell in English, is the abode of the dead, Sheol in Hebrew. Prior to the Death of Christ, the souls of the Just could not go to Heaven. St. Peter speaks of Christ preaching to the just when He died. Christ went to the abode of the dead and brought them the Gospel and liberated them. (1 Peter 3:19)

Another interpretation can be seen of the words, as well. That by experiencing the absence of His Father, He experienced Hell, and in experiencing a death that no human has experienced,
the radical separation of soul and body experienced as a destruction, Christ is the only one who has ever experienced death. He swallowed up this death in Himself, because as God, His Body and Soul remained possessed by God even as His Human Soul was separated from His Body.

As a result, all humans now are able to die in Him, that is, not truly die at all, that is, they are not destroyed forever. Their body and soul will reunite. Until that time, as a complete being, we are said to sleep, because our bodies die but our principle of life, our soul, remains alive, awaiting the Resurrection of the body at the Second Coming.

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Anthony —

We do not believe in soul sleep. See:

I've never heard of the Gospel of the Nazarenes but see the Wikipedia article.


Paul replied:

Hi Anthony,

When St. Paul speaks of those who have fallen asleep we see that as a metaphor for those who have died, whose souls are now disembodied. Although there may be hints in Scripture of what this condition is like before Christ comes back again and the resurrection of the body occurs,
we really don't know.

We do know that the disembodied soul is immediately judged and will experience Heaven, Hell or Purgatory.

Hope this helps,


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